Medicaid cuts hurt all families
While recognizing Medicaid as a valuable program in need of reform, the Alzheimer's Association calls on Congress to reduce Medicaid cuts and save the system for families with a loved one with Alzheimer's who have nowhere else to turn.
Congress now is considering legislation to reduce Medicaid spending by $182 billion over the next seven years.
Under these cuts 6,900 people in Maryland could lose their eligibility for benefits in 1996. That number could grow to 63,000 people in the year 2002, almost a 50 percent decrease in the number of people served.
Bills under consideration would replace the federal health care program for the poor and disabled with block grants to the states.
Current federal protection for Medicaid beneficiaries would mostly be eliminated.
Many people do not understand that Medicaid pays half the nursing home bills in America. With nursing home bills averaging $38,000 yearly, few can afford to pay for long-term care for family members indefinitely.
These cuts mean that hard-working families would have no guarantee of help, even after they have spent all they have on nursing home bills. States would have the ability to stop Medicaid benefits for people with Alzheimer's.
This could be devastating to hundreds of thousands of families. It is estimated that 50 percent of nursing home residents have Alzheimer's disease or a related disorder.
This Medicaid "reform" is a budget-driven effort with little concern for the people on the receiving end.
They are the most vulnerable people in this country.
The House-passed bill would allow states to end spousal impoverishment protection, forcing people whose husbands or wives go into nursing homes to liquidate all their assets before they can qualify for assistance.
In the years before spousal impoverishment protections were passed, some men and women were forced to sue or divorce their spouses in nursing homes in order to maintain a reasonable standard of living.
Legislation passed in both houses would eliminate federal nursing home quality standards, passed in 1987 after Congress found deplorable conditions and financial irregularities in many facilities.
It has reduced the number of nursing home residents who are chemically or physically restrained. People with Alzheimer's now are getting better care.
For the longer term, in order to reform Medicaid long-term care, the Alzheimer's Association recommends that Congress increase home and community-based care, which can be more desirable as well as cost-effective.
Congress should also consider coordinating payment and accountability for both acute care and long-term care by making Medicaid and Medicare work together.
These potential cuts in Medicaid put our parents, grandparents and families at risk. We must let state and federal legislators know that this is unacceptable.
The writer is the executive director of the Baltimore/Central Maryland chapter of the Alzheimer's Association.
Cold War warrior was little known
Please allow me to provide some background information concerning the Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs, which were mentioned in Bill Glauber's excellent story on Joseph Rotblat (Oct. 14, "Out of the bomb's shadow").
The Pugwash Conferences began in that small Nova Scotia town because of Cyrus S. Eaton, an industrialist and early anti-nuclear activist.
Mr. Eaton, who befriended Nikita Khrushchev at the height of the Cold War, was born in Pugwash and later moved to Cleveland, Ohio, where he launched a career that made him one of the wealthiest and most controversial men of his time.
When Mr. Eaton learned that a group of scientists from both sides of the "Iron Curtain" wanted a quiet spot where they could search for common ground free from ideological pressures, he offered his boyhood home.
He took no part in the deliberations, serving only as host and leaving the scientific discussion to scientists.
For several years Mr. Eaton subsidized the conferences and helped persuade communist governments to allow their scientists to travel to the Western Hemisphere.
I know this background because I spent a year processing the papers of Cyrus Eaton at the Western Reserve Historical Society in Cleveland.
Mr. Eaton, who died in 1979, was a very interesting person, a dedicated capitalist who dreaded the devastation of a nuclear war.
He made it his business to understand the Soviet leaders and their approach to world affairs and worked to bring the two sides together.
I would like to think that Mr. Eaton played some small part in bringing the Cold War to an end.
Terps victorious on academic gridirons
The remarkable performances by the University of Maryland athletic teams this fall have captured the region's attention. National rankings in football, men's and women's soccer and field hockey come on the heels of last spring's success in men's and women's lacrosse and basketball.
Clearly, our student-athletes, coaches and Athletic Director Debbie Yow have given Terrapin fans throughout the area reason to rejoice. Perhaps not as widely recognized, though, is that there is reason to rejoice over some more important rankings, namely, of the university's academic programs.
U.S. News & World Report has just published a national ranking of higher education's two most popular undergraduate programs, business and engineering. Both of these programs at the University of Maryland were ranked in the top 25. Only one other university, public or private, in the Mid-Atlantic region was accorded this honor.
But that is not the only good news. Money magazine recently named College Park one of the 100 best buys in colleges and universities across the United States, and the university was included in the book, "100 Best Colleges for African American Students."
Recently, Success magazine ranked the university's business school one of the 25 best for the study of entrepreneurship, and this past spring a study commissioned by Arco, entitled "Ivy League Education at State School Prices," ranked College Park's honors program as one of the nine best public university honors programs in the nation.
Just a few weeks ago there was still more good news. The National Research Council issued its eagerly awaited evaluation TTC of doctoral programs.
The university's graduate programs in, among other areas, astronomy, computer science, economics, electrical engineering, mathematics, oceanography and physics were ranked among the very best programs in the nation and the strongest in the Mid-Atlantic region among public and private universities.
These particular fields are especially important for the economic development of the area. For example, because of the strength of College Park's computer science department, a major Swedish software company announced it is establishing its U.S. research headquarters adjacent to the University of Maryland.
And the Greater Baltimore Committee's list of the five fastest growing firms in the Baltimore-Washington corridor includes Neocerra, a company that graduated last year from the university's small-business incubator program and continues to work closely with our physics and engineering departments.
At this time of budget cuts and limited funds, the University of Maryland at College Park continues to achieve excellence in education and to earn well-deserved national recognition.
So, as Maryland fans cheer the Terrapin teams to victory and extend congratulations to our coaches and student-athletes, let's also congratulate all the outstanding faculty, staff and students who bring such honor to our university and serve as a valuable resource to our region.
Ed A. Williams
The writer is president of the University of Maryland College Park Alumni Association.
Over-taxation is social injustice
Ken Carter's letter (Oct. 5) responding to the Sept. 22 front-page story regarding SSI reform is hopelessly misguided.
He claims the editors of The Sun have failed to take a responsible position regarding this reform and goes so far as to accuse them of falling for politically expedient budget cuts. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Welfare and Social Security checks are not a "livelihood," as Mr. Carter would like us to believe. They are a transfer payment, a handout. Where does the money come from?
Most transfer-payment funding comes from confiscatory taxes levied on the millions of good folks out there working one, two or more jobs.
Over-taxation of producers is the true social injustice of our nation. The rest, which amounts to the federal government's annual budget deficit and accumulating national debt, will be borne by future generations; the progeny of today's taxpayer. Hard-working taxpayers have had enough already.
Mr. Carter appeals to society's pity for drug addicts. Society is not to blame for the fate of millions of addicts who have chosen to enter into stupid behavior. Drug addiction is stupid in and of itself, not because there aren't enough tax-funded treatment centers.
We shouldn't shed a tear for these sorry individuals. Rather, our concern should be directed toward encouraging and supporting those who exhibit positive, pro-active, productive behaviors.
America is running large deficits because a small but critical mass of individuals fail to take responsibility for themselves and more aptly their children.
Mr. Carter is correct, insofar as it will take vision, leadership and patience to fix the problems resulting from a culture that victimhood built.
Budget cuts are necessary to keep our government from spending both itself into irrelevancy and taxpayers' income out of existence.
We need budget cuts in order to save money and balance out-of-line budgets.
Perhaps even Mr. Carter would agree that a broke government helps no one, especially the poor.
Richard L. Saffery
Get bicycles off the highways
The most serious problem we motorists have to contend with today are the bicycles on the roads. Motorists are forced to cross the center line when passing bikes, which is an offense for which we could be cited if a police officer should happen to see us and choose to do so.
It is especially hazardous on Greenspring Valley Road, which I understand is one of the roads designated as a bike route by the physical fitness committee.
This two-lane road has no shoulder and has many curves, which makes it difficult to pass the bikes.
Bikes should not be allowed on state and county highways.
If the bikers continue to use the roads, they should be forced to register their bikes and pay taxes the same as we do.
I had a bike, which I disposed of, as there is no safe place to ride in this area.
Vernon W. Robinson
Doing the numbers on school virtues
The Cato Institute executive vice president (letter, "Public schools are wasteful bureaucracy," Oct. 21) states that Harford County public schools and the Catholic Archdiocese of Baltimore serve the same number of students -- about 35,000 -- but Harford has 57 more administrators.
Later he says, "Instead of spending $5,400 per student in Harford County . . . we could give every parent in Maryland a state or county scholarship worth $3,000 in a private or parochial school."
He attributes a difference of $2,400 per pupil to the Catholic schools' lower administrative cost.
The 57 "administrators" cost perhaps $3.5 million per year (estimating a generous $61,000 per "administrator"). That's $100 per pupil, not $2,400.
Public schools are mandated to educate everyone. Private schools can pick and choose.
Inefficient school bureaucracies are a problem, but the problem must be kept in proportion in order for the solution to make sense.
Nuclear transport called safe
Your Oct. 12 story, "Nuclear waste to pass through Md. under plan," leaves the false impression that transporting spent nuclear fuel is unsafe.
More than 30 years of experience and safety demonstrate just the opposite. Shipping containers are licensed by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, based on rigorous testing. They are designed to safely contain nuclear materials in the most severe accident conditions. Emergency preparedness training and guidelines for the selecting the best shipping route also help ensure that public health and safety are protected.
Experience shows that this approach really does work. Of the handful of accidents that have happened over the course of 2,400 shipments, no radioactive material has ever leaked from shipping containers.
Joe F. Colvin
The writer represents the Nuclear Industry Institute.
It is time to realize the meaning of respect
When will Louis Farrakhan, and many other people in this world, realize that no respect can be demanded? It can only be earned.